Protocols of the Elders of Zion

views updated Jun 27 2018


One of the world's most notorious antisemitic documents, crafted at the end of the nineteenth century by the Tsarist Russian secret police, the Okhrana.

Drawing upon what was originally a German plagiarism of a French novel attacking the French emperor, Napoléon IIIand which had nothing whatever to do with Jews, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was brimming with paranoid ruminations of a Jewish lust for world domination, and purported to be the transcript of a conspiratorial meeting of elderly Jewish plotters in the Jewish cemetery in Prague. This delirious fantasy has had the most extraordinarily long life. Intended originally to bolster the sagging fortunes of tsarist rule in Russia, the Protocols reached a broad public audience during the Russian Revolution and Civil War, when they were mobilized against the Bolshevik insurgents. They soon became a basic part of the antisemitic canon, helping to form part of the world view of such diverse proponents as Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler. Among many elements that attracted readers were the lurid portrayal of the plotters' mentality, the disparaging picture of modernity, and allusions to modern economic inequities. Although convincingly exposed as a forgery in England in 1921, the Protocols have been called the most widely circulated book on the globe, next to the Bible, and have appeared in countless editions and translations.

The Protocols have become an important text in anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda, have been disseminated widely throughout the Middle East, and have benefited from periodic approbation from politicians, academics, and the mass media in the Arab and Muslim world. As recently as November 2002, during Ramadan, the Protocols served as a main theme of an Egyptian television series, "A Rider without a Horse," that reached millions of viewers throughout the region.


Cohn, Norman. Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: Harper & Row; London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967.

Institute of Jewish Affairs. The Post-War Career of the Protocols of Zion. Research Report. London: Author, 1981.

Joly, Maurice. The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu: Humanitarian Despotism and the Conditions of Modern Tyranny, edited and translated by John S. Waggoner. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2002.

Segel, Binjamin W. A Lie and a Libel: The History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, translated by Richard S. Levy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

michael r. marrus

Protocols of the Elders of Zion

views updated May 29 2018

Protocols of the Elders of Zion. An anti-Semitic forgery of the 19th cent., written to demonstrate a Jewish conspiracy to achieve financial and political power world-wide. Despite their evident falsity, they were used by the Nazis, and have resurfaced as anti-Jewish propaganda during the conflict over Palestine/Israel.

Elders of Zion

views updated Jun 27 2018

Elders of Zion, Protocols of the Learned. An anti-Semitic forgery. The book purports to be the report of a conference of world Jewry in which the leaders plot world domination.